Charlotte NC Oct 15 2017
You’ve seen them at sporting events, concerts, downtown social events or even when you’re doing Christmas shopping.
Police officers and deputy sheriffs in full uniform standing guard or watching the crowd for any sign of trouble. Others direct traffic at shopping centers, construction sites and private events.
But the officer is not really on duty, per se.
These officers and deputies are among the thousands of officers who take private security assignments in their off-duty hours to supplement their incomes.
It’s a practice common in many departments and there’s nothing illegal about it as long as they comply with their department policy and state laws.
In recent years, individual officers and several law enforcement agencies have come under scrutiny by state and federal law enforcement for price fixing, threatening or harassing private security companies, (their competitors) and theft from customers who hired police for off-duty work.
One such allegation has surfaced in Seattle Washington.
The Seattle police department and some of its officers are coming under scrutiny by the FBI amid allegations of price-fixing and attempts to intimidate competition.
The FBI is investigating allegations that the (private) companies that provide the off-duty officers — one of which is connected with the department’s union — tried to intimidate a rival company and customers and engaged in price-fixing.
Blucadia, a private company from Olympia Washington, matches off-duty officers with customers.
Off duty officers employed by this or similar companies are technically “security guards” since they are not on duty nor on the payroll of their police agency.
Allegations have been made that the private companies and possibly some law enforcement personnel have been using heavy handed intimidation against other security providers in an attempt to discourage customers away from lower private security bids.
Some police agencies prefer to maintain control of their off-duty programs including drafting a list of who can participate and how much they are paid.
Numerous police agencies have formed an office of secondary employment who receives the requests from the public for off-duty service and assigns the manpower from the available off-duty pool. Additionally, the law enforcement agency is paid direct and provides the officers with the necessary liability insurance that protects them from lawsuits as well as workers compensation which would cover the officer should they be injured during the off-duty assignment.
While some police agencies handle all of the scheduling and collection of fees in-house, others sub-contact the duties out to private companies such as Extra Duty Solutions of Trumbull, Conn.
The company fields the requests, pulls officers from a rotating seniority-based list and sends the payment for the officer’s services to the city or county agency, which then relays it to the officer.
Extra Duty Solutions may or may not be paid by the police or sheriff agency based on the terms of their contract. In some areas, EDS collects a $2-per-hour fee from those wanting to hire officers.
Extra Duty Solutions was founded two years ago, and services 25 police departments across the country, said CEO Rich Milliman.
“Usually, it’s an administrative burden on the departments, and (off-duty employment programs) can be expensive to run,” Milliman said.
Recent issues with off-duty police use include the arrest of a 14-year Jacksonville police veteran and officer of the month for numerous counts of grand theft, petty theft and official misconduct, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Undersheriff Patrick Ivey said Adam R. Boyd, 44, was paid for providing security at apartment complexes and shopping malls for secondary jobs that he didn’t show up for. It involved about $800 and records that were falsified to indicate he was at the work sites. When officers are employed by private groups, they still have full police authority, Ivey said.
Walmart officials recently accused a Hartford, Connecticut, police officer with theft while he was working an off-duty security job at the store.
Officer Luis Feliciano, 34, turned himself in to police and was charged with fifth-degree larceny and possessing a shoplifting device.
Feliciano, who had been a member of the department for two and a half years at the time of his arrest was later terminated from the force.
Prior to his work at the police department, Feliciano spent 10 years as a loss prevention officer for a large retailer in Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission.
Another incident at a Walmart involved off-duty police officers working as loss prevention.
Britton Cornell and Ryan Duggar, off-duty officers from Franklin, a city north of the Walmart store in Columbia TN. Stopped a shoplifter.
The report states Cornell displayed his Franklin police badge and stopped the shoplifter, which is against company policy.
According to the report, while escorting the suspect into the store, the off-duty officer and the shoplifter began to fight and Cornell put the shoplifter in a choke hold that is not authorized by Franklin police. According to the report, the shoplifter broke free and began kicking Cornell, who got the man down on the ground.
The report states that Cornell began punching the shoplifter in the head with his right fist and that the officer was injured in the scuffle, which he didn’t report to his department supervisors.
The fight reportedly caused Cornell to miss SWAT school he was mandated to attend.
During the investigation, Franklin officers discovered that Cornell was using the police department’s criminal justice portal excessively and inappropriately for personal use.
Supervisors notated names he accessed that matched friends on Facebook. Officials also saw the name of the Columbia shoplifter that Cornell fought in the Walmart.
The Franklin officers also failed to report the fight to their supervisors until the investigation.
Phoenix police officers were also embroiled in an off-duty work scandal a few years ago that resulted in indictments of several officers. Officers were accused of taking money from businesses for hours not worked. Eventually, the officers were not prosecuted and the Phoenix police took over an internal investigation against the officers.
Authorities also investigated a Prince George Maryland police officer who was also indicted on a theft charge after it was found that he billed a company for work he didn’t do, law enforcement officials said.
Cordell Barbour was supposed to monitor the Willow Hill Community in Largo in a police cruiser from April 10 to June 28 as part of an approved secondary-employment agreement, but there were several hours for which he billed the property management company but wasn’t there, prosecutors said.
“Officer Barbour not only stole from and defrauded the company for which he was working secondary employment, he also violated the oath he took as an officer and we take this charge very seriously,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said in a statement announcing Tuesday’s indictment from a county grand jury.
Barbour received more than $4,000 for work he didn’t do, prosecutors said.
Bayonne NJ Police Officer James Wade also has been arrested on a charge of theft by deception, accused of falsifying his timesheet at an off-duty security job to get paid for more work than he did. He faces termination from employment and possible jail time.
Dozens of police officers have been investigated, arrested, fired and even jailed in off-duty security duty schemes.
High ranking police officials have also started their own security firms while in the employment of their agency resulting in some unfair advantages against the private security contractor.
The Ramapo NY ex-police chief, who had been the highest paid local public employee in the state, was one of those who also ran a private security firm on the side, using town resources, a Journal News/lohud.com investigation found.
Peter Brower, who raked in roughly $369,000 a year, used his Police Department secretary to prepare payroll for his private business, he testified in 2014. Brower also testified that he “possibly” used telephones in the Police Department for the job.
Asked by The Journal News whether he did a second job while working as police chief, Brower said, “That may or may not be so.”
When asked again, he said, “That may or may not be so, but is there anything illegal about that?”
Allegations were made when Brower testified under oath during a deposition in a gender-discrimination lawsuit brought by police Sgt. Margaret Sammarone, that he used staff and resources for his private security business.
During that deposition, he was asked about his job running security for Pierson Lakes, an exclusive gated community on more than 1,000 acres in Sloatsburg with multimillion-dollar homes.
His testimony raises questions about whether he did a second job on town time and whether the job in his department’s jurisdiction created any conflicts with him carrying out his police duties. Ramapo police have jurisdiction over Pierson Lakes.
Brower, retired after 45 years with the department.
Brower was the highest-paid local government employee in New York, according to the Empire Center’s 2015 “What They Make” report, which said it used pay data reported to the New York State and Local Retirement System between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015.
He refused to comment about his employment dates with the security company, whether he told the Town Board about it, whether he kept it separate from his police job and whether it had its own phone number.
Reports of police harassment, intimidation, price fixing, theft from customers and threats against competitors is nothing new.
Private security contractors often charge 30-55% less for their services compared to the price of an off-duty law enforcement officer where hourly rates can run from $35-$100 hour.
There have also been questions about accountability, officer decision-making, police/community relationships, and the role that police agencies play in modern society.
The need for off-duty police officers has grown since the tragedy of 9/11 and some businesses prefer law enforcement over the use of private security because of their authority to arrest and their expanded authority.
However, when off-duty officers are hired without the control of their agencies or a secondary employment company, it leaves no oversight and often, no insurance coverage for the officer or their client.
The use of off-duty law enforcement does have its merits and is sometimes necessary or even governed by statute for certain traffic duty assignments on public roads or government assignments or when law enforcement is necessary to maintain law and order.
But when the police become competitors against private security firms, how can the deck not be stacked?